Summer is almost upon us! Surfers are either getting out in the water more as the water warms up or maybe there is a few newbies looking to try something different after lock down. Either way, before you check the conditions and head out, there are a couple of things to consider to make sure you can stay in the water all summer long.
The top two most common injuries for surfers overall are lower back pain and shoulder injuries (Furness et al. 2014). Recreational surfers had slightly more shoulder injuries, while the lower back topped the list for competitive surfers.
The mechanism for a quarter of lower back injuries in this study were attributed to turns. Surfers need spinal mobility during turning manoeuvres. Increasing spinal mobility will not only reduce your chance of injury but also increase performance. Try doing regular static lumbar rotation stretches or supine leg sweeps to increase mobility or warm up before you hit the water.
Surfers spend the majority of their time out in the water paddling and it is no surprise that the most common injury, lower back pain, is attributed to long bouts of prone lying on the board in addition to paddling in that same prone position. Without adequate thoracic spinal extension, prolonged paddling puts additional pressure on the lower back, which increases the chance of injury there. Regular thoracic extensions over a foam roller and rotation exercises are a great way to increase thoracic mobility.
Prolonged paddling was also the main cause of shoulder injuries. These could relate to overuse or imbalance relating to poor thoracic rotation and/or extension where your shoulders are the ones compensating for a lack of movement elsewhere. Fatigue from all the paddling can lead to excess demand on the rotator cuff. A 2021 study (Langenberg et al. 2021) suggests strengthening external rotators and stretching internal rotators as well as increasing thoracic extension to reduce the risk of shoulder injury. A great exercise you can do now is a face pull with external rotation. This exercise not only strengthens the rotator cuff muscles but also the upper back and shoulders muscles which are used during paddling.
Whether you are looking to prevent injury or address one, or improve your performance, at Physio Connex our team can help provide a physio assessment, tailored strength and conditioning programs and remedial massage to help keep you in the water.